Deck your holiday gift lists with toys and games that are not only fun but vision-friendly.
For decades, Kellye Knueppel, O.D., and Mary Gregory, O.D., have been devising separate annual lists of games, toys and other gifts that are fun and jolly good for vision development. Their lists are now holiday traditions, as they share picks on their practices’ blogs.
Dr. Gregory, who practices at Omni Vision & Learning in Monticello, Minnesota, finished “Dr. Mary Gregory’s Holiday Toy and Gift Guide” this week. The “2018 Gift List: 129 Vision-Friendly, Age-Appropriate Toys” by Dr. Knueppel, who practices at the Vision Therapy Center in Brookfield and Madison, Wisconsin, went up a few weeks earlier.
“Parents request the list, if we don’t get it out soon enough,” Dr. Knueppel says. “They do appreciate having some ideas for Christmas gifts that will support their child’s vision therapy program. In addition, the toys on the list are good for any child to help build visual skills.”
Both lists jingle games and toys that could be classified as classics (checkers and bingo), but a few relatively new gift ideas (i.e., robot toys) are sprinkled in.
What’s not on the doctors’ holiday gift lists? Digital devices.
“Many electronic games and apps are overstimulating to the senses and do not allow for true thinking and processing skill growth,” says Dr. Gregory in a post accompanying her list.
“Nothing makes me happier than when I know my children are playing with a really awesome gift, and I know their little brains are developing some serious skills at the same time,” Dr. Gregory writes.
The doctors of optometry resort to a sack of methods to develop their lists: They try them out in the office or home. They review “hot toy” lists from the game and toy industries. Dr. Knueppel reads product reviews. Dr. Gregory gets tips from parents. They lean on their optometric expertise to recommend what works and what the needs are.
New to Dr. Knueppel’s list this year are age-appropriate listings.
“Almost everything on the list now has an appropriate age level with it,” she says. “This should make it easier for parents to choose the most appropriate toys. The developmental age may not match the actual age of the child, if the child is behind in their development of certain visual skills. For example, many of the items in the space perception category would be good for anyone of any age who needs to work on eye teaming and depth perception.”
Debuting on Dr. Gregory’s list are robots.
“The big gifts the kids are talking about this year are robots,” she says. “Robotics clubs are growing in our area and children of all ages are talking about playing with robots or programming their own robots. We certainly encourage the hands-on building and programming of this technology, but my list is more to supplement the electronic gifts with brain-building games.”
Educate your patients and the community with tips on selecting safe toys to prevent eye injuries. Download free members-only electronic messaging content, including an infographic for your practice’s social media channels.
And share with patients these gift recommendations by doctors of optometry, (some of which may require safety equipment to use):
Dr. Knueppel’s List
Building toys (develops eye-hand coordination and visualization/imagination): Building blocks (ages 1+), Mega Bloks (1+); Lincoln Logs (3+), TinkerToys (3+), K’Nex (3+), Legos Duplo (4+), Erector Set (8+) and Magformers (3+), Roller Coaster Challenge (8+), VEX Robotics (8+)
Fine motor skill toys (develops visual-motor integration and fine motor skills): Finger paints (1+), Kinetic Sand (1+), pegboard and pegs (3+), coloring books and crayons (3+), dot-to-dot activity books (3+), Play-Doh/modeling clay (3+), chalkboard easel (3+), large bead stringing (3+), lacing cards (3+), Lite-Brite (4+), Silly Putty (4+), Rainbow Loom (5+), Jacks (5+), stencils, Spirograph, origami Sets (8+), paint or color by numbers, bead craft kits, model cars, airplanes, ships, etc..
Space perception toys (develops depth perception and eye-hand coordination): Jumpin’ Monkeys (5+), Don’t Break the Ice (3+), Ants in the Pants (3+), Egg and Spoon Race (4+), Fishin’ Around (4+), Flippin’ Frogs (5+), pick-up sticks (5+), marbles (5+), KerPlunk (5+), Operation (6+), Door Pong (7+)’ Jenga (8+), Elefun (3+), Frisbee Rings (3+), dart games (velcro) (3+), Nerf basketball (4+), Box & Balls (5+), Frisbee (5+), ring toss (5+), Toss Across (tic-tac-toe) (5+), cornhole bean bags, Oball (good for kids who have difficulty catching balls, for ages 6+), ping pong (6+), badminton (8+), Bowling Zombies (8+), Cuponk (9+) and pitchback.
Visual thinking toys and games (develops visual perceptual skills including): Visualization, visual memory, visual discrimination, pattern recognition and sequencing. These skills are important for academics including mathematics, reading and spelling: Gears!Gears!Gears! (3+), Thinkfun Shadows in the Forest (8+), Kanoodle (8+), UNO (7+), Spot It! (7+), color blocks and 1-inch cubes (1+), wooden form board puzzles (2+), jigsaw puzzles (3+), dominoes (3+), Tactilo (3+), Old Maid card game (3+), bingo (3+), Go Fish Card Game (4+), Parquetry Blocks (4+), Tumble Trax (5+), Tangrams/Tangoes (5+), Color Code (5+), Attribute Blocks (5+), Make ‘N’ Break Jr. (5+), checkers (5+), Blokus (5+), Rush Hour Jr.(5+), Perfection (5+), Mathlink Cubes (5+), Smart Games IQ Puzzler Pro (6+), Guess Who (6+), Mancala (6+), Chinese Checkers (6+), Set card game (6+), Math Dice, Math Dice Jr. (6+), Qwirkle (6+), Connect Four (6+), Battleship (7+), Thinkfun Cat Crimes (8+), Bop It (8+), Blink (8+), Racko (8+), Q-bitz (8+), Rubik’s Cube (8+), Color Cube Sudoku (8+), Kanoodle (8+), Rory’s Story Cubes (8+), Amaze (8+), Bejeweled Board Game (8+)’ Tetris Bop It (8+), Labyrinth (8+), Connect Four Shots (8+), Perplexus (8+), Rush Hour (8+) and Sort it Out (12+).
Memory games (develops visualization and visual memory): Guidecraft Memory Caps (3+), Memory Game (5+), Loopz (7+), Hyperdash (7+), Simon (8+) and Chicken Cha Cha Cha (4+).
Balance and coordination toys and games (develops gross motor skills, laterality and bilateral coordination): Sit and Spin (1.5+), Hoppity Hop (3+), foam pogo jumper (3+), Walkaroo Stilts (4+), Hoola hoop (4+), Jump Rope (5+), Slip ‘n’ Slide (5+), pogo stick (5+),Twister (6+), balance beam/walking rail, balance board, mini-trampoline/trampoline, bicycle, snowboard and skis.
Dr. Gregory’s List
Eye-hand coordination: Building toys such as Legos, magnets, Jenga®, Magformers, K’NEX and games such as Fishin’ Around, Operation, KerPlunk, Simon (electronic memory game), 3D puzzles, Magna-tiles.
Fine-motor control: Play-doh, lacing cards, Perler beads, coloring books, Etch a Sketch, Lite Brite Magic Screen, sand art, Stained Glass Made Easy, Farm Cube Puzzle and origami crafts.
Visual perception or visual thinking games: Parquetry blocks, puzzles, “Where’s Waldo” books, seek and find books, Perplexus, Spot it, Acuity, Battleship, Labyrinth, SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception, Simon, Rush Hour, checkers, Perfection, Memory, Rubik’s Cubes, Q-bitz, Blink, Suspend family game, Gears!Gear!Gears!®, SwishTM, Gravity Maze, Maze-O, GeoSmart Flip Bot, Chocolate Fix®, Pictureka and Blokus.
Imagination (a new category): Any pretend play toys like dolls, kitchen sets, building sets, dress-up costumes (firefighters and police officers), secret decoder set, magic set, Crayola Color Chemistry Lab Set.